WWII Jewish Partisans Honored in New York

Last week, 53 Jewish partisans who fought against the Nazis in WWII were honored in a ceremony held in New York for their bravery and heroism.

The ceremony, held on November 6, reunited many members of the Polish and Russian underground known as the Partisans who were known for fighting against the Nazi regime.  Actions mentioned during the ceremony included sabotaging trains, engaging in firefights and lengthy treks in the woods to secure food.  The ceremony was conducted by the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation (JPEF), an organization that educates the public about Jews who sabotaged and fought the Nazi regime.  The organization currently has 450 teachers who use their material and they hope to reach over 2 million students over the next decade.

Last weeks’ ceremony included descendents of the partisans as well, such as Matthew Bielski, grandson of Zusia Bielski, who was the subject of a 2008 film called Defiance.  Many of the attendees were accompanied by their children and grandchildren.  A dinner was held the following night in which many of the fighters told stories about some of their feats while part of the Polish Underground.  Paula Berger, who was part of the Bielski group, expressed gratitude for the event, saying “If there’s anything any of us ever wanted, it’s that someone would tell our story because we didn’t think we’d survive.  The people who are putting in the time and money to keep the story alive and retold -- I think it’s wonderful.”

Another survivor, Leon Baskt, recalled how he went with his older brother Yehoshua through the forest to get food – bread, cheese, milk, potatoes, meat – taking whatever they could. He said he was well suited to the task because he used to travel through that same forest every year to visit his grandmother.

During the Holocaust, the Partisans were a group of Jews and non-Jews who fought against the Nazis.  The group helped many Jews escape the Nazi regime although it was the most dangerous route to take and most did not survive because of Nazi collaboration.  The role of Jewish partisans was mostly understated although in recent years more information about the Jewish role has come to light.